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Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety

Also: Challenge your mind and body to sharpen your thinking skills. Treating anxiety without medication.
Harvard Medical School

Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety

No one is "perfect." Yet many people struggle to be, which can trigger a cascade of anxieties.

Perfectionism may be a strong suit or a stumbling block, depending on how it's channeled, as clinical psychologist Jeff Szymanski explains. Dr. Szymanski is an associate instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the International OCD Foundation.

"The core of all perfectionism is the intention to do something well," says Dr. Szymanski. "If you can keep your eye on intention and desired outcome, adjusting your strategy when needed, you're fine.... But when you can't tolerate making a mistake, when your strategy is to make no mistakes, that's when perfectionism starts veering off in the wrong direction." In its most severe form, perfectionism can leave you unable to complete any task for fear of making a mistake.

Product Page - Coping with Anxiety and Stress Disorders
Everyone worries or gets scared sometimes. But if you feel extremely worried or afraid much of the time, or if you repeatedly feel panicky, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses, affecting roughly 40 million American adults each year. This report discusses the latest and most effective treatment approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapies, psychotherapy, and medications. A special section delves into alternative treatments for anxiety, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, and biofeedback.

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To help you prioritize the projects and activities that mean the most to you and keep your personal strategy in line, Dr. Szymanski has shared the following exercise:

What do you find valuable in life? What would you want 50 years of your life to represent? If that seems overwhelming, think about where you want to put your energies for the next five years.

Think about your current goals and projects, and assign them priorities. Use the letters "ABCF" to help you decide where you want to excel (A), be above average (B), or be average (C), and what you can let go of (F). For example:

  • A (100% effort): This is reserved for what's most important to you. For example, if your career is most valuable, your goals might be to impress the boss, make sure clients are happy, put out good products at work.

  • B (above average, maybe 80% effort): Perhaps you like playing golf or tennis or want to learn a new language. You enjoy these activities, but have no plans to go pro.

  • C (average effort): Perhaps having a clean home is important, too. But how often does your home need to be cleaned? People aren't coming to see it every day. Could you just clean up on the weekends? Or focus on a few rooms that get the most traffic?

  • F (no effort): Time-consumers that don't advance your values or bring you pleasure — for example, lining up all your hangers or folding all your clothes in a specific way. Do you have any tasks that, upon reflection, don't really matter — you've just done them one way for so long that you're on autopilot? These deserve to be pruned.

To learn more about anxiety, including the difference between what's normal and should be considered serious, as well as ways to treat anxiety, buy Coping with Anxiety and Stress Disorders, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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News and Views from the Harvard Health Blog

Challenge your mind and body to sharpen your thinking skills

Mental and social engagement can help keep your brain sharp and lower the chances of cognitive decline, in part because challenging our brains may help forge new connections between brain cells. The key to taking advantage of the brain's malleability is to find activities that you truly enjoy and to commit to life-long learning.

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Treating anxiety without medication

Image: iStock

If you suffer from anxiety, the constant, nagging feelings of worry can be troubling and hard to control. These feelings are usually intense and out of proportion to the actual troubles and dangers in your everyday life. They can make it hard to function at home, at work, or in social situations.

Anxiety can be treated with medication, but several mind-body approaches may also be effective.

Hypnosis is sometimes used along with cognitive behavioral therapy to treat anxiety. It can help people focus their attention, rethink problems, relax, and respond to helpful suggestions. Hypnosis relies mainly on your ability to concentrate and on the trust you have in the therapist. If you are interested in hypnosis, discuss it first with your psychiatrist or psychologist. She or he can help you find a qualified practitioner.

Biofeedback measures specific body functions, such as heartbeat or breathing, and feeds this information back to you in the form of sounds or lights. This can help you become aware of your body's responses and learn to control them using relaxation and cognitive techniques. You can practice different relaxation techniques while attached to biofeedback equipment and get immediate sensory input about which techniques produce the desired results, such as slowing the heart rate or relaxing tense muscles. The hope is that this extra feedback helps people find — and refine — techniques that can calm the body and reduce anxiety.

Other relaxation techniques that may ease anxiety include deep (diaphragmatic) breathing, visualization, and body scanning.

Deep breathing

To practice this technique, begin by finding a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Start by observing your breath. First, take a normal breath. Now try taking a slow, deep breath. The air coming in through your nose should feel as though it moves downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). Alternate normal and deep breaths several times. Pay attention to how you feel when you inhale and exhale normally and when you breathe deeply. Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.

Continue this for several minutes. Put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale. Your chest will rise slightly, too, in concert with your abdomen. Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully.

Try to practice this breathing technique for 15 to 20 minutes every day. You might also try shorter bouts lasting a few minutes when anxiety begins to build, to see if this feels calming.

To learn more about how to keep anxiety and phobias from interfering in your life, buy Coping with Anxiety and Stress Disorders, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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Coping with Anxiety and Stress Disorders

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What are anxiety disorders?
What causes anxiety?
Types of anxiety disorders
Anxiety and age
Diagnosing anxiety
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* Please note, we do not provide responses to personal medical concerns, nor can we supply related medical information other than what is available in our print products or website. For specific, personalized medical advice we encourage you to contact your physician.

Guidelines For Choosing Lap Band Surgeons

By Della Monroe

As we age up, our metabolism would slow down by which, when we reach the stage of adulthood. While we were younger, we get to move fast and easy and that would result to consuming all the nutrients in our body immediately. Therefore, no matter where you may be, a person who ages up would really get the chance of becoming obese.

In Ridgewood, NJ citizens in that place can easily call on a person or a professional who master in the field of science and reduction of weight. But it would take you time to understand completely how to select and find your lap band surgeons NJ. But worry no more because what is written here are the pointers that surely would help your search.

Learn the difference of every hardship that you would undergo when dealing with such matter. Be prepared on seeing yourself after the surgery so that there can never be false expectation to occur. The reason why you must have a research about the treatment itself is that it can make you become geared up from before to after surgery.

Keep every household informed of your plan to transform. Those people who look after you would really be glad to know of your plan and with them by your side. Things would be easier on your end because they will keep pushing you in accomplishing your goal. Surprising them may be good, but when you still are in the process of gaining confidence with your decision just let them know.

Food was your enemy before, but only because of excessive intake of it. But when you make your effort count on preparing the foods by yourself and never ordering from fast food chains are having more preservatives than natural ones, then it could really be of big help. As early as now, find the recipe that would make your foods tastier but less fat content.

Be ready mentally. You may be a bit aggressive or excited to undergo such phases in your life, but when you are at the highest peak you would tend to break down and stop the procedure. Whatever you plan to get or do in your life, you should be hundred percent arranged and set so things will go smoothly as what your imagination did.

Read online forums. At this point of our generation, more individuals are getting involved in interactions happening over the net. Blogs, forums and conference rooms are also available and accessible with just a click or a swipe on your mobile phone. Therefore, there should never be an excuse when you do your research online.

Websites are the best option when seeking for potential comparisons to make for each practitioner you listed as prospect surgeon. Seeing the official sites of those professionals would keep yourself able on comparing them one by one. Determine the strength and specialization of each person so that you can no longer waste another moment contemplating which.

Trust a person if he can provide you license and documents to prove of his practice. Ask if that professional was really a passer of his field while taking the examination for his licensure. Also, rumors of all positive will somewhat be doubtful so find out which agency you could ask about the complaints or protest filed to him.

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Should Humans Eat Meat? 7 Ways to Answer

This week's news from the WHO that processed meats cause colon cancer and that red meat "probably" does the same has left the public reeling. Celebrity doctor David Katz, MD is wondering if we should eat meat at all, and thinks there are 7 ways in which to answer the question. One is actually through the lens of your mental performance. The rest?
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Should Humans Eat Meat? 7 Ways to Answer

This week's news from the WHO that processed meats cause colon cancer and that red meat "probably" does the same has left the public reeling.

Celebrity doctor David Katz, MD is wondering if we should eat meat at all, and thinks there are 7 ways in which to answer the question. One is actually through the lens of your mental performance. The rest? 

Nicholas English
Content Manager of Health
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